Why outdoor drinking areas have grown in popularity around region, state

Donna Hill, left, and Bri Dudley, right, sit at one of the outdoor drinking area tables in the Oregon District on Saturday, July 3. Eileen McClory / Staff
Donna Hill, left, and Bri Dudley, right, sit at one of the outdoor drinking area tables in the Oregon District on Saturday, July 3. Eileen McClory / Staff

Miamisburg will open its designated outdoor drinking area on Thursday, July 8, joining a fast growing list of cities in the region and across Ohio that have turned to the districts to attract people.

The state currently has 81 of the designated areas that allow patrons age 21 and older to purchase alcohol and walk around within the boundaries and drink from a labeled cup. Last year 32 communities in the state created the districts. So far this year the Ohio Division of Liquor Control has approved 23 designated areas and and three more are pending.

It’s evident more communities believe there is benefit in creating the designated drinking areas, said Michael Gravely, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Commerce.

“Anecdotally, some embraced the option during the pandemic because it enabled customers to social distance outside while dining at bars and restaurants,” Gravely said.

In Miamisburg, the Main Street businesses supported it 100%, City Manager Keith Johnson said.

“The ones we talked to on Main Street see it as just another amenity for visitors to come and enjoy,” he said.

On Saturday afternoon on Fifth Street in the Oregon District in Downtown Dayton, several people were out enjoying the designated outdoor refreshment area.

Kristan and Tim Barczack, both residents of Beavercreek, said they have come to the area on Saturday afternoons several times since the beginning of the summer.

“It’s just fun to be out, walking around,” he said.

The sign for the outdoor drinking area in the Oregon District. Eileen McClory / Staff
The sign for the outdoor drinking area in the Oregon District. Eileen McClory / Staff

These areas provide a much needed boost to the region’s local businesses, said Holly Allen, Dayton Chamber of Commerce director of marketing and communications. The designated drinking areas add another level of entertainment, she said, although patrons still must be responsible.

“Encouraging people to be out and about exploring the neighborhood is a great way to get customers in the door,” Allen said. “We were closed up for so long ... this just provides a great excuse for people to get out and explore.”

Ken and Cynthia Arndt rode their bikes to the Oregon District on Saturday, July 3. Eileen McClory / Staff
Ken and Cynthia Arndt rode their bikes to the Oregon District on Saturday, July 3. Eileen McClory / Staff

While many cities are opting to introduce these areas, some communities remain opposed. The residents of Yellow Springs shot down the idea, according to Village Manager Josué Salmerón.

“Folks were concerned about people walking around with drinks in their hands, maybe drunk, and what that behavior creates in a community,” he stated.

Many local Yellow Springs businesses spoke out against the idea as well, Salmerón said.

“Many businesses just were not in support,” he stated. “Key businesses were against it. They had their reasons, some claimed it didn’t contribute to the family-oriented vibe of Yellow Springs.”

In downtown Dayton’s Oregon District, the implementation of the outdoor drinking area has been beneficial for all parties involved, according to Emily Mendenhall, owner of Lily’s Bistro and vice president of the Oregon District Business Association.

“It is remarkably, overwhelmingly successful,” she said. “We have a very diverse community ... It’s a rare thing that we all agree that something is generally a good thing. The overwhelming majority of our businesses are in favor of it and see benefits from it.”

Ruth Schultz, who was also out in the Oregon District on Saturday, said she liked the outdoor drinking area. It has a good vibe, she said.

But, she said she has mixed feelings about it, and worried about people who would otherwise be there feeling unwelcome.

“It feels like it’s gentrifying the neighborhood,” Schultz said.

Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas in our region:

Bellefontaine - Logan County

Cincinnati - Hamilton County

Dayton Oregon District – Montgomery County

Deerfield Twp. – Warren County

Fairborn – Greene County

Greeneville – Darke County

Hamilton – Butler County

Lebanon – Warren County (recently expanded its DORA boundaries)

Mason – Warren County

Miamisburg - Montgomery County

Middletown – Butler County

Oxford – Butler County

Sidney – Shelby County

Springboro – Warren County

Springfield – Clark County

Tipp City – Miami County

Troy – Miami County

Wilmington – Clinton County